Spotlight on: West London
Seriously good bars and cool street markets, cutting-edge theatre and smart hotels; Earl’s Court and Shepherd’s Bush may be well-known enclaves of west London – international backpackers and short- and long-term visitors have been coming to these neighbourhoods for decades – yet these areas of west London have undergone something of a renaissance in recent years. Earl’s Court Exhibition Centre is gone, streets have smartened up and there are hidden gems to discover.
Mustard is a treasure on Shepherd’s Bush Road; a cool neighbourhood diner with sassy décor, offering up a brasserie-style menu. Its ‘Green Menu’ is packed with delicious vegetarian options and its daytime and evening menus have a considerable collection of innovative dishes all utilising British produce.
Attracting a young, hip crowd but still maintaining a traditional British pub feel is no mean feat – yet The Defector’s Weld does it with aplomb. It’s a great pub to visit anytime, but especially at the weekend; Sundays are all about its ‘Roasts and Records’, winding down after its busy Friday and Saturday nights hosting eclectic DJ performances.
Bring your appetite and head to Bush Hall Dining Rooms for a cool diner-style restaurant serving hearty comfort food and all-day weekend breakfasts. There’s also a generous cocktail list and, if you’re going to a gig at the neighbouring Bush Hall, you receive a 10% discount on your meal.
Looking for fine dining? Find it at Shikumen, located at the Dorsett Hotel, for first-class Chinese cuisine that uses British produce prepared with traditional Asian flavours and cooking styles.
Coming soon: A new restaurant Maple is set to open at Westfield London in summer 2018.
The Prince is something special – one street transformed until the end of the summer into an avenue of four restaurants, three bars and an English country garden (retractable roof comes as standard), all of which is less than ten minutes’ walk from Earl’s Court Underground. Food ranges from top-quality burgers and Thai canteen-style cuisine to top-notch fried chicken and bao and yakitori grill, while a deck connects it all together with the revitalised Prince of Wales pub at its heart – and possibly makes it London’s largest beer garden!
Serving up satisfyingly British, giant-scale Sunday lunches as well as everyone’s favourite, the bottomless Saturday brunch, mean The Lillie Langtry and its divine Victorian cocktail lounge means it’s always an attractive venue to visit to quench thirst and satiate hunger. The owners have also launched an innovative project called Brush and Bubbles where people can come together, whatever their artistic ability, to chat and paint while enjoying a glass of bubbly.
The Pembroke is as quintessential a British gastropub as it gets. Feast on delicious meals in the intimate dining room of this historic building, enjoy drinks in its lively downstairs bar or relax on comfy sofas and snug armchairs in its upstairs lounge bar. Head to its roof garden when the sun’s shining and come back on a Sunday when it hosts its ‘Hangover Club’ for Bloody Marys, feel-good brunches and Sunday roasts.
The Evan & Peel Detective Agency is one of the places to spend an evening in Earl’s Court; this speakeasy style bar promises a distinctly memorable evening. Book an ‘appointment’ online to get in. You’ll then be taken into a small basement office to discuss your eating and drinking needs. Huge amounts of fun and an evening to message home about.
K West Hotel & Spa may be a four-star haven but it also prides itself on its cutting-edge style and ambience. And that’s down to its location within former recording studios where legends such as The Kinks and Bob Marley laid down tracks. Its Studio Bar is all chic furnishings and chandeliers, playing host to a cool urban crowd at the weekends. And its spa features London’s first ‘snow paradise’; chilled to -15C, a cabin has captured the feel of a snow drift designed to complement the spa’s hot-cold therapy, alternating between steam and ice environments.
Another four-star option in Shepherd’s Bush is the Dorsett Hotel, which is conveniently located for a trip to the nearby shopping paradise that is Westfield London shopping mall. Behind the historic building façade lies a distinctly modern design, destination bar and restaurants, and a chance to rejuvenate at its Spa Mika, which overlooks Shepherd’s Bush Green for some added tranquillity. And, if you’re looking for a boutique-style property that’s literally right next door to Westfield, check in to W12 Rooms, where bedroom décor is vintage-inspired.
Look beyond backpacker hostels and you’ll find an assortment of hotels to suit all budgets. Mere minutes’ walk from Earl’s Court Underground is the colourful, contemporary style of the Hotel Indigo Kensington secreted within a luxury Victorian townhouse. It’s a bright and comfortable accommodation option with its own Italian restaurant on site – Theo’s Simple Italian – if you like what you eat you can book on to one of its regular Italian cuisine masterclasses. Steps away from here is the Henley House Hotel, another townhouse property that overlooks a picturesque residential square and combines its classical features with modern décor. Art is a key element the property and you’ll find specially commissioned photographic prints in the guestrooms as well as artwork in its garden conservatory. Boutique hotel Twenty Nevern Square is a real find three minutes’ walk from Earl’s Court station; this four-star accommodation has individually designed rooms influenced by a range of international styles; think Egyptian sleigh beds and hand-carved four-poster beds.
Quite simply, you’ve arrived in shopping heaven; Shepherd’s Bush is home to Westfield London shopping centre, a heady combination of high-street and luxury stores, beauty bars and entertainment. It’s a great place to spend even an entire day, particularly if you’re travelling with kids; you can book them into KidZania – an indoor city for kids between 4-14, with 60 real-life activities for them to participate in while you treat yourself to some retail therapy. Alternatively, head down to the newest All Star Lanes venue at Westfield London – aside from the ten bowling lanes, keep yourself amused for hours in its karaoke booths and three Art Deco-style bars.
For altogether different type of shopping experience, but one that’s equally memorable, head to Shepherd’s Bush Market. It specialises in fresh food and fabrics and is a proper west London treat; established more than 100 years ago, it’s a much-loved fixture in the neighbourhood. An extension to the market opened earlier this year, the Old Laundry Yard, an unmissable mix of food stalls, ranging from Venezuelan street food to Nigerian barbecue, and a creative community space.
There’s more to Shepherd’s Bush than shopping; catch up with culture here too. Book tickets to a gig at the O2 Shepherd’s Bush Empire, which has hosted some of the world’s most inspirational artists, from David Bowie to Adele, Amy Winehouse to Muse, as well as being a hotspot for talented newcomers. And, just ten minutes’ walk from Shepherd’s Bush Underground station, is the Bush Theatre; thought-provoking performances take place across its two theatre spaces and it’s become renowned as a home to showcase original work – be the first to see plays penned by the world of theatre’s newest and most exciting writers.
When you’re in Earl’s Court you’re only a 20-minute walk from some of the capital’s greatest museums, such as the Natural History Museum, the V&A and the Science Museum. Yet take an even shorter stroll to another two museums to have on your must-visit list. First is the Design Museum, which moved to the area less than 18 months ago from its east London location, and is 2018 European Museum of the Year. Come for inspirational exhibitions or to join a specialist workshop in design practice. Right next door is the picturesque Holland Park and its 55 acres of gardens and woodland and Japanese-style Kyoto Gardens to explore. Second on the list should be an institution that describes itself as ‘a private palace of art’…and that’s a pretty accurate description of the Leighton House Museum, the former home of Victorian artist Frederic, Lord Leighton. He curated a glorious collection of art that encompasses a mesmerising Arab Hall with a golden dome, beautifully detailed mosaics and paintings by Lord Leighton himself, all in various stages of completion.
Within half an hour’s stroll from Earl’s Court you can explore some of the capital’s greatest and most fascinating sights. Kensington Palace, home to both the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and the new Duke and Duchess of Sussex, is where royal history comes to life – visit its unmissable exhibitions, which currently comprise Diana: Her Fashion Story and Victoria Revealed. And for a fascinating afternoon out, take a stroll around Brompton Cemetery. One of London’s seven historic cemeteries, it’s here you’ll discover the stories of the thousands of people buried here among historical monuments, woodland, stoned arcades and catacombs.
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